The last three years have been rough on Lauren Alaina. Not only did the 22-year-old’s world get turned upside down with her parents divorce, Alaina also struggled with an eating disorder and watched her father deal with – and ultimately overcome – alcoholism. But with impressive strength, she faces her challenges with raw honesty and genuine positivity on her latest record, Road Less Traveled.
The world was first introduced to Alaina when she was a 17-year-old contestant on American Idol in 2011. (Her audition so impressed then-judge Steven Tyler that afterwards he said, “We’ve found the one.”) Alaina was runner-up to Idol winner Scotty McCreery, but audiences were equally captivated with both of the big-voiced country newcomers.
Later that year, Alaina released her debut album Wildflower, which brought singles “Like My Mother Does,” “Georgia Peaches” and “Eighteen Inches.” She’s performed on her share of big stages, including the Grand Ole Opry, the White House, and CMA Country Christmas. In 2012, Alaina was the opening act for Jason Aldean on his My Kinda Party Tour, and was later chosen as the New Artist of the Year at the American Country Awards.
Fast-forward to 2017, and the release of her sophomore effort Road Less Traveled. It’s a powerful, fearless album that holds nothing back in realism but remains relentlessly optimistic. Nothing sums up this theme better than the album’s second track, “Doin’ Fine,” written by Alaina, Emily Shackleton, and busbee. It’s a kick in the stomach right away, with the opening lyrics: “Daddy got sober, Mama got his best friend / I’ve cut down crying to every other weekend.” But the song rises to the challenge in the chorus, with Alaina belting out, “I’m not okay but I’m gonna be alright.”
With “Pretty,” she sets the familiar scene of a girl in the bathroom getting ready, battling her own insecurities. Alaina gently reminds her that true beauty is found in one’s character and actions. “Holding the Other” and “Road Less Traveled” (written by Alaina, Meghan Trainor, and Jesse Frasure), explore the themes of strength and fearlessness in the face of adversity. Alaina takes time to be girly and fun with “Crashin’ The Boys Club,” a bouncy pop-infused, Shania Twain-esque tune, written with Emily Weisband and Johan Fransson.
Although some of the themes could’ve fallen victim to clichés, brilliant songwriting breathes new life into familiar topics and cuts straight to the heart with an honesty that’s Alaina’s own. Her strong, beautiful voice combined with simple-but-satisfying guitar lines make a powerful, inspiring statement, and offer reassurance that we’re all going to make it after all.